It is poetic justice that both Prop B to raise the minimum wage in Missouri and Amendment 1 to clean up Missouri politics are on the same ballot statewide on November. The two seemingly unrelated ballot initiatives are undeniably connected at the hip. For proponents of both measures, it has made for a clear example when explaining to voters about how politics play out.
Let’s go back a couple of years.
Wages in the U.S. have been stagnant 40 years despite productivity increasing a little over 72 percent. That’s right: two generations going deeper into the financial abyss.
During the flatlining of workers’ raises in wages, corporate profits skyrocketed. The pay gap—no, gulf – between workers and CEOs is now at a magnitude of 312:1. That was the conclusion of a recent report by the Economic Policy Institute when its researchers surveyed 350 U.S. companies. CEOs took home an average salary of nearly $20 decadent millions while working families are saddled in debt and locked in poverty.
To reverse this negative trend, a momentous, grassroots effort to raise wages in St. Louis was carried out by labor, faith, business and community leaders and organizations. In 2015, a city ordinance was passed to raise the minimum wage to $11 over time. It was challenged in court, a gangster tactic often used by corporate interests to show their strength and influence. The people prevailed, and we celebrated. Too soon.
As workers started to enjoy a few extra dollars in their pockets, a sinister plot already had been hatched. Three months after the ordinance passed, the Republican-dominated state Legislature snatched the victory and capped the wage before workers knew what hit them.
Republican legislators’ shameful deed was done at the finger snap of special interest groups and business associations, such as the Missouri Restaurant Association and the State Chamber of Commerce. They used their money and influence to steamroll over St. Louis voters and their elected legislators. Then-Governor Eric Greitens proudly stomped on Missouri families with his vision of implementing Right to Work (another wage-busting law) as he coldly overturned the minimum wage increase.
The same groups who worked to make the ordinance happen in 2015 came back with a vengeance, hitting the streets to gather tens of thousands of signatures for a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage. You will have the privilege to vote for Proposition B on Missouri ballots statewide on November 6 to give Missouri workers a well-deserved raise.
The raise will not get us to the living wage calculated by MIT, but we’re headed in the right direction. While organizers have been locked in a fight for $15 an hour, the MIT living-wage calculator says an adult with two children should be bringing in $27.22 per hour.
Ever since the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations were citizens, the people have been fighting for our basic individual rights in a system where being rich, white and male is highly favored. Our right to a decent-paying job is central to our quality of life. We need to expose those who cap our wages and restrict our pursuit of happiness while they exploit our labor to support their lavish lifestyles. We have an obligation to ourselves and to the next generation to organize against these savage tactics and policies at every turn.
When you go to the polls on Tuesday, November 6, remember there are some hard-fought citizen-led ballot initiatives that need your vote. Vote Yes on Amendment 1 to clean up corrupt politics in Missouri, and Yes on Proposition B to raise the minimum wage.
Voters have made it clear that we will wrestle corporations and their paid legislative servants to the ground. We beat back Right to Work in August. We gave Eric Greitens his pink slip. When you leave the election booth, flash a victory sign and a big smile. On to democracy!